People vs. Sayaboc, GR 147201, 15 January 2004
· On 2 December 1994, Galam was shot to death at the Rooftop Disco and Lodging House owned by him, which was located at Barangay Quezon, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.
· A waitress of the rooftop Diana Grace Sanchez Jaramillo and Tessie Pilar, the caretaker of the lodging house heard four gun bursts emanating from the ground floor of the building. When Jaramillo looked down, she saw Sayaboc shooting Galam, causing the latter to fall to the ground face up, with blood spurting out of his chest. Sayaboc forthwith ran out and disappeared into the darkness.
· SPO4 Cagungao was called to the Provincial Command Headquarters in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, to take the statement of Sayaboc.
· When he arrived at the headquarters he saw Sayaboc being interviewed by reporters inside the investigation room. He then brought Sayaboc to the inner part of the room.
· Before taking the statement of Sayaboc, he advised the latter of his constitutional rights. Then Sayaboc told him that he wanted to have counsel of his own choice. But since Sayaboc could not name one, Cagungao asked the police officers to get a lawyer.
· Half an hour later, the police officers brought Atty. Rodolfo Cornejo of the PAO, who then conferred with Sayaboc for a while. After Cagungao heard Sayaboc say, “okay,” he continued the investigation, during which Atty. Cornejo remained silent the entire time.
· However, Cagungao would stop questioning Sayaboc whenever Atty. Cornejo would leave to go to the comfort room. That night Sayaboc executed an extrajudicial confession in Ilocano dialect. He therein confessed to killing Joseph Galam at the behest of Marlon Buenviaje for the sum of P100,000.
· He likewise implicated Miguel Buenviaje and Patricio Escorpiso. The confession was also signed by Atty. Cornejo and attested to by one Fiscal Melvin Tiongson.
· The accused filed for demurrer of evidence which was denied by the trial court.
· Sayaboc denied having committed the crime and proffered the defense of alibi. He also flatly denied having met Atty. Cornejo or having been informed of his rights.
· He testified to having been beaten by six or seven police officers in the investigating room, who then coerced him to confess to having killed Galam.
· Apart from his testimony, he submitted a handwritten statement dated 20 March 1995 and an affidavit dated 10 April 1995 to support his claim of police brutality and retraction of his confession.
· Trial court convicted Benjamin Sayaboc guilty of murder, with treachery as the qualifying circumstance and craft and price or reward as aggravating circumstances.
Whether or not the extrajudicial confession of Sayaboc may be admitted in evidence against him.
The Court held that the extrajudicial confession of Sayaboc cannot be used in evidence in this case. Jurisprudence provides that extrajudicial confessions are presumed to be voluntary. The condition for this presumption, however, is that the prosecution is able to show that the constitutional requirements safeguarding an accused's rights during... custodial investigation have been strictly complied with, especially when the extrajudicial confession has been denounced. The rationale for this requirement is to allay any fear that the person being investigated would succumb to coercion while in the unfamiliar or... intimidating environment that is inherent in custodial investigations. Therefore, even if the confession may appear to have been given voluntarily since the confessant did not file charges against his alleged intimidators for maltreatment. The failure to properly inform a suspect of his rights during a custodial investigation renders the confession valueless and inadmissible.
Apart from the absence of an express waiver of his rights, the confession contains the passing of information of the kind held to be in violation of the right to be informed under Section 12, Article III of the Constitution. In People vs. Jara, the Court explained:
The stereotyped "advice" appearing in practically all extrajudicial confessions which are later repudiated has assumed the nature of a "legal form" or model. Police investigators either automatically type it together with the curt "Opo" as the answer or ask the... accused to sign it or even copy it in their handwriting. Its tired, punctilious, fixed, and artificially stately style does not create an impression of voluntariness or even understanding on the part of the accused. The showing of a spontaneous, free, and... unconstrained giving up of a right is missing.
The right to be informed requires "the transmission of meaningful information rather than just the ceremonial and perfunctory recitation of an abstract constitutional principle". It should allow the suspect to consider the effects and consequences of... any waiver he might make of these rights.
The Court likewise ruled that Sayaboc was not afforded his constitutional right to a competent counsel. The right to a competent and independent counsel means that the counsel should satisfy himself, during the conduct of the investigation, that the suspect understands the import and consequences of answering the questions propounded. The desired role of counsel in the process of custodial investigation is rendered meaningless if the lawyer merely gives perfunctory advice as opposed to a meaningful advocacy of the rights of the person undergoing questioning. If the advice given is so cursory... as to be useless, voluntariness is impaired. This is not to say that a counsel should try to prevent an accused from making a confession. Indeed, as an officer of the court, it is an attorney's duty to, first and foremost, seek the truth. However, counsel should be able, throughout the investigation, to explain... the nature of the questions by conferring with his client and halting the investigation should the need arise. The duty of a lawyer includes ensuring that the suspect under custodial investigation is aware that the right of an accused to remain silent may be invoked at any time.
For these reasons, the extrajudicial confession of Sayaboc cannot be used in evidence against him. The Court held, however, that the prosecution has discharged its burden of proving his guilt for the crime of homicide.